Weight-Based Victimization: Bullying Experiences of Weight Loss Treatment-Seeking Youth

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 12/2012; 131(1). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-1106
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Objective:
Few studies have comprehensively examined weight-based victimization (WBV) in youth, despite its serious consequences for their psychosocial and physical health. Given that obese and treatment-seeking youth may be highly vulnerable to WBV and its negative consequences, the current study provides a comprehensive assessment of WBV in a weight loss treatment-seeking sample.

Adolescents (aged 14-18 years; N = 361) enrolled in 2 national weight loss camps were surveyed. An in-depth assessment of WBV was conducted by using an online survey, in which participants indicated the duration, typical locations, frequent perpetrators, and forms of WBV they had experienced.

Findings indicate that 64% of the study participants reported WBV at school, and the risk of WBV increased with body weight. Most participants reported WBV enduring for 1 year (78%), and 36% were teased/bullied for 5 years. Peers (92%) and friends (70%) were the most commonly reported perpetrators, followed by adult perpetrators, including physical education teachers/sport coaches (42%), parents (37%), and teachers (27%). WBV was most frequently reported in the form of verbal teasing (75%-88%), relational victimization (74%-82%), cyberbullying (59%-61%), and physical aggression (33%-61%). WBV was commonly experienced in multiple locations at school.

WBV is a prevalent experience for weight loss treatment-seeking youth, even when they are no longer overweight. Given the frequent reports of WBV from adult perpetrators in addition to peers, treatment providers and school personnel can play an important role in identifying and supporting youth who may be at risk for pervasive teasing and bullying.

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    • "Furthermore, retrospective reporting biases are generally not substantial enough to invalidate reports of events that can be reasonably operationalized (Hardt & Rutter, 2004, Feb). In addition, the relatively high prevalence of WRA reported across our samples and the substantial and negative impact of WRA highlight the importance of refining ways to validly and reliably measure this construct (Puhl et al., 2013, Jan; Hardt & Rutter, 2004, Feb). Future research could involve administration of the WRAQ as a current report to more fully validate this questionnaire. "
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    ABSTRACT: Weight-related teasing (WRT)/stigmatization may be distinct from teasing and general abuse and may differentially impact adult outcomes. As WRT increases in severity so do depression and disordered eating. Currently, there are no validated measures designed to assess abuse specific to weight. Thus, we developed the Weight-Related Abuse Questionnaire (WRAQ) and validated it in young adult and clinically obese populations. The WRAQ was administered to 3 samples of participants: 292 undergraduate students, 382 undergraduate students, and 59 individuals seeking bariatric surgery. Concurrent validity was assessed via measures of WRT and general childhood abuse. Convergent validity was assessed with measures of depression and disordered eating. Study 1 data were used to further develop the structure of the WRAQ. Study 2 indicated that the WRAQ had excellent psychometric properties (based on factor analyses and reliability/scale consistency analysis) and strong concurrent and convergent validity, supporting the validity of the questionnaire. 6-month test-retest reliability was also good. In Study 3 responses on the WRAQ converged well with interview responses, showed good psychometric properties, and showed moderate correlations with measures of childhood abuse and psychopathology. The WRAQ has strong psychometric properties and is strongly associated with measures of current psychopathology. Additionally, it fills a gap in the assessment literature and may be a beneficial tool for determining which individuals are at increased risk for psychopathology.
    Eating behaviors 12/2015; 19:150-154. DOI:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2015.09.001
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    • "In total, 9.9% of the teenagers was cyberbullied, this was 11.8% among obese teens. A more recent study in the US investigated cyber-victimization among adolescents attending a weight-loss program [30]. They reported very high cybervictimization rates among those ever victimized (59% to 61% of those ever victimized were cyber-victimized in the past year), but when estimating the prevalence in the total surveyed sample, cyberbullying represented only between 10 to 12%, similar to the rates found in the US HBSC survey. "
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    ABSTRACT: Obese youth are at increased risk for peer victimization, which may heighten their risk of psychosocial problems and physical activity avoidance, and lower the effectiveness of professional and lifestyle weight-loss initiatives. Little is known about obese adolescents' risk for victimization from cyber-bullying and how this relates to psychosocial functioning and healthy lifestyle barriers. The purpose of the study was to assess traditional and cyber-victimization among adolescents with severe obesity and its relation to psychosocial distress and barriers to healthy lifestyles. A sample of 102 obese adolescents (mean age = 15.32 +/-1.71) in residential treatment was matched with 102 normal-weight youngsters from the Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) study (mean age = 15.30 +/-1.73). Adolescents with obesity were significantly more often cyber-victimized than normal-weight peers. Obese youth victimized by traditional bullying experienced lower quality of life, lower motivation for physical activity and higher avoidance and emotional coping towards healthy lifestyles than those non-victimized. Obese cyber-victims experienced significantly higher suicidal ideation. Traditional and cyber-victimization may hinder treatment effectiveness and healthy lifestyle change in adolescents with obesity. Health professionals should pro-actively address peer victimization and psychosocial functioning during multidisciplinary obesity treatment. Schools could contribute to a better physical and psychosocial health of obese youth by implementing multi-behavioral health-promotion programs.
    BMC Public Health 03/2014; 14(1):224. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-224 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The rise in the rate of obesity in school-aged children, adolescents, and young adults in the last 30 years is a clear healthcare crisis that needs to be addressed. Despite recent national reports in the United States highlighting positive downward trends in the rate of obesity in younger children, we are still faced with approximately 12.7 million children struggling with obesity. Given the immediate and long-term health consequences of obesity, much time and effort has been expended to address this epidemic. Yet, despite these efforts, we still only see limited, short-term success from most interventions. Without changes to how we address childhood obesity, we will continue to see inadequate improvements in the health of our children. Clinicians and researchers need to be lobbying for evidence-based policy changes, such as those identified by systems science, in order to improve the nation's health.
    Primary Prevention Insights 06/2015; 5:1-4. DOI:10.4137/PPRI.S12291
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